On the Plane for Reno
The backpack to the Sierras is over. It was grueling, exhilarating, and wonderful. Our itinerary was a bit different from previous trips. We have typically flown into San Jose where our hiking buddy Ron used to live. Since our last trip Ron and his wife Sharol have moved to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington- a much less convenient point of departure for the trip. So this year, we all convened in Reno on the Friday before Labor Day, rented a car, and headed off for the mountains.
The trip got off to a fine start. The plan was to drive down to Lee Vining where we would get our wilderness permit. We had a minor problem with the car and had to pull over briefly. While Ron and Leon looked at the car, I checked out the Rabbitbrush on the side of the road and promptly collected a fine specimen of longhorn beetle (Crossidius ater). It seemed a good omen. We arrived in Lee Vining to find that permits for hiking the next day had all been issued. We headed off for some nice views of Mono Lake, grabbed dinner and a motel room, and planned to go back the next morning.
Saturday morning we got a permit that would allow us to begin a seven-day hike into Humphreys Basin via Piute Pass. Since we had the rest of Saturday to hang out, we visited the gold-mining ghost town at Bodie State Park. The town was a fascinating slice of the old West. It is deliberately being kept in a state of "arrested decay." We took a guided tour of the stamp mill (the facility where gold was extracted from the ore), a testament to the dangers of unregulated capitalism if ever I have seen one. The town’s architecture was like something straight out of a spaghetti western. I especially liked the graveyard.
The ghost town at Bodie
Old mining equipment
The stamp mill
Weeping angel grave stone
We took the back road back into Lee Vining, and I did some fairly unproductive collecting along the way. We then drove south to June Lake, a woodsy town in the lower west slopes of the Sierras. We spent the night in a motel that caters to the fishing crowd, and had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant called the Eagle’s Roost. Appropriately for our last night of fresh produce for a week, the Cesar salad was superb there.
On Sunday Morning we were up early, breakfasted in June Lake, and went on to Bishop where we drove up to North Lake at about 9,300 feet to begin our hike. The day was sunny and warm (hot in Bishop). By mid afternoon, we would exceed 11,000 feet, an elevation that we would not go below again until the following Saturday.
The high country that awaits us
To be continued: The (ugh. My aching back. My feet hurt. I can’t breathe) first day of hiking.